Labeled "A Naxos Musical Journey," this DVD music video from 2000 was among the first in a series of such productions from the company that had hitherto given us audio-only CDs.
But before I tell you what I think of the disc, let me make an introductory remark: A while ago I said to a friend that if it had not been for the advent of home-theater and surround sound, two-channel home stereo would be practically dead by now. What I was getting at was that in the old days a lot of people interested in music would sit in front of and between their two speakers and concentrate on the musical sounds coming at them. But I guess such people as we were, and still are, in a minority. From everyone I know come comments like, "How do you just sit and listen to music? Isn't that a little like meditation?" Most folks, it seems, attend to music while doing other things, sometimes not even in the same room with the music. So, for years even audiophiles would spend thousands of dollars on elaborate stereo setups and then hardly ever listen to them except, of course, to show them off to friends. Now that home theater has been with us for a good long time, people have a reason to listen attentively again. Namely, the movies they watch force them to sit in front of and often between their front speakers because that's where the TV is. And they no longer have to address the music alone; they have images to go with the sound. The world is happy.
Frankly, I still don't subscribe to this all-inclusive audiovisual theory, and I maintain two separate systems in my home: A two-channel stereo rig in the living room for music-only listening and a 7.1-channel surround-sound setup in a separate room for home theater viewing and listening. It is in this latter room that I auditioned the present crossover disc from DVD International and Naxos Records. Naturally, it combines music with pictures and does so in a relaxing audiovisual environment.
The disc offers an image in a 1.33:1 ratio, presenting a lovely pictorial survey of architecture and nature. The scenery is mostly from Italy--ancient Roman ruins, parks, palaces, interspersed with mountains, hills, valleys, vineyards, seas, bays, and such. The picture quality looks warm and inviting, sometimes quite beautiful. It sometimes looks very slightly blurred, too, but nothing to worry about, and there were a couple of instances of fluttering horizontal lines.
The audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 2.0, and DTS. In DD 5.1, the sound, recorded in 1989, is pleasant, a bit bright on my system but easily tamed, with a couple of occasional, extraneous bass rumblings. The rear channels hardly come alive, adding only a subtle ambiance appropriate to music reproduction. In any case, with music the listener should not actually notice the back speakers at all unless they're turned off. This is not an action movie we're listening to. Also, there is no narration on the disc, thankfully, just music and pictures, and an easy-to-use menu system allowing one to navigate quickly through the musical selections or the written travel notes. There is also an option to repeat certain chapters or play them randomly.
Now, I have to be perfectly frank with you here in saying that I found all the imagery superfluous. Personally, I would still rather listen to a more imaginative interpretation of Bach by, say, Kuijken and La Petite Bande, Menuhin and the Bath Festival Orchestra, Grumiaux and the New Philharmonia, or Lamon and Tafelmusik than these. Then, closing my eyes and listening only, I can use my imagination to envision whatever I choose without the distracting pictures. OK, as I said before, I know I'm in a minority here.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: